Our day-to-day lives can be hectic. The deadlines and agendas driving our activities often leave us little or no down time. Creating a few moments of peace and reflection each morning as I practice my Sun Salutations brings my life into balance leaving me ready to face the challenges of a chaotic world. I learned long ago that in order to maintain a life in balance, I needed a regular movement routine that combined the benefits of both cardiovascular and weight bearing exercise. In yoga, the 12 pose Sun Salutation sequence is the perfect blend of each. When combined with focused breathing, the result is a simple 10-15 minute workout that invigorates the body and calms the mind.
Strictly speaking, Sun Salutations are not exercise but were originally performed as a morning adoration to the life giving sun. Surya Namaskar as it is known in Sanskrit literally means “to bow or adore oneself to the sun”. On a physical level, Sun Salutations assist the body’s natural functions by activating the circulatory, digestive, nervous and endocrine systems. Intended to be performed outside facing the morning sun, the Surya Namaskar sequence when combined with nasal breathing becomes more than a simple exercise routine. Instead, it increases our spiritual connection to nature and resembles a meditative practice similar to Tai Chi or Qigong.
I invite you to try the following Sun Salutation sequence in its truest form. If you are unable to practice outdoors, at least perform the sequence in the spirit it was intended by facing to the east. To learn more about the Sun Salutation sequence and other yoga poses, please visit me on the web at www.pranahealthworks.com.
Matthew Corrigan, CMT, RYT – Certified Massage Therapist & Registered Yoga Teacher
To me, if life boils down to one thing, it's movement. To live is to keep moving.
The Sun Salutation Sequence
Begin in a standing posture with your big toes touching and your heels slightly apart in Mountain Pose.
1. Breathe in through the nose as you sweep your arms out to the sides and up overhead. Look up at your hands as you bring the palms together on the end of the inhalation.
2. As you begin your exhale, dive into a forward bend keeping the back straight, bending the body at the hip joints. The arms come down in the same sweeping arc and reach toward the floor in front of you. (Note: If your hands don’t reach the floor, focus on keeping your back straight and put a slight bend in the knees).
3. Inhale as you lift the straight back parallel to the floor sliding your hands to your shins and looking forward with the eyes. (Note: If you bent the knees in the forward bend, straighten them).
4. Release back into the forward bend on the exhale being conscious of keeping your back straight as you let the gaze fall to the floor with the arms.
5. Bend the knees deeply as you inhale and step the right foot back into a lunge followed by the left foot so that you end in a plank position (high push up) at the end of the inhalation.
6. Exhale as you lower the body all the way to the floor in a controlled release. Keep the elbows tucked in close to the body and resist the force of gravity until you reach the floor.
7. Point your toes back and inhale as you lift the head and chest into a Cobra pose looking up toward the sky. Elbows remain slightly bent and pulled into the body.
8. On the exhale, release back down to the floor keeping the hands under the chest. Curl the toes under.
9. Inhale as you lift the body up onto the knees, continue by lifting the knees and pressing the shoulder back toward the feet into Downward Facing Dog. Down Dog should looks like a 90 degree arc at the hip joints with the arms and legs straight, hands and feet on the floor. Use the hand to push the shoulders back toward the feet as you try to work the heels to the ground. Remain in Downward Facing Dog for 5 breaths through the nose.
10. Inhale as you step the right foot forward between the hands into a lunge followed by the left foot ending in the same position as Step 3 above.
11. Exhale and release into a forward bend. Step 2 above.
12. Inhale as you sweep the arms out to the side and bring the body upright into the same position as Step 1 above. Pay close attention to keeping the back straight as you raise the arms overhead and look at your hand touching.
13. Exhale and return to the standing pose you started with (Mountain Pose).